Sports radio talk show host Mike Francesa has apparently unretired after just four months or so after his much-heralded final broadcast on New York City’s WFAN, according to numerous media reports today.
Francesa worked for the high-profile radio station for 30 years, and was part of the top-rated, dominating Mike and the Mad Dog duo from 1989 to 2008, when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo left for SiriusXM. Francesa then flew solo as Mike’s On until his retirement. The duo were recently featured in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.
The first 24-hour sports talk station in the country, WFAN broadcasts on 660 AM and 101.9 FM and streams on the internet as well.
As the station’s leading personality, Francesa held forth behind the microphone Monday through Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. WFAN changed things up when he left, however. Midday hosts Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts got an extra hour tacked on to their show, and the Francesa replacements, Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray, and Bart Scott (collectively known as the Afternoon Drive with CMB) thus began their show at 3 p.m.
According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, Francesa wanted back in and was unable to find a gig elsewhere.
“Mike Francesa so badly wanted to return to WFAN, he approached upper management of the radio’s parent company, Entercom, and accepted a ‘significant pay cut’ compared to his previous salary, according to sources. Francesa, who is expected to begin hosting in the afternoons again on FAN early next month, had been making around $3 million before deciding to ‘retire’ Dec. 15. The exact amount of the pay cut is not known. The decision to bring Francesa back occurred above WFAN vice president Mark Chernoff’s head, according to sources. Chernoff was not a proponent of bringing Francesa back. The deal came together quickly in the last week, according to sources.”
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) April 24, 2018
At the beginning of the CMB show today, Chris Carlin vowed that the trio isn’t going anywhere and that there is room for everyone at the station even with the expected return of Mike Francesa. Although this may just be spin, he added that it makes business sense to welcome Francesa back into the WFAN fold, even if it has its awkward moments.
In a recent appearance on Russo’s MLB TV show High Heat, the ex-radio partners gleefully threw some shade on WFAN, which touched off a mini-feud with Carlin and several other WFAN hosts, however.
— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) April 24, 2018
WFAN’s broadcast schedule will adjust to accommodate Mike Francesa, the Post claimed.
“Francesa’s new show is expected to run from 3-6:30 p.m. each weekday. His replacements, Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott, will move to the 1-3 p.m. slot, while Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno will lose an hour and now run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., as they had previously.”
It’s possible that Francesa, 64, will anchor from a home studio at least some of the time. During his long WFAN career, Francesa often took most of the summer off.
Longtime Francesa foe Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, who has derisively nicknamed Francesa the Sports Pope because of his overbearing persona, implies that WFAN management apparently freaked out because CMB dropped to 10th place in the New York City-area winter ratings book and narrowly lost for the first time ever to ESPN New York and Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay’s talk show.
“Clearly, the weasels panicked, something professional management is not supposed to do. So, instead of thinking long-term, they take the easy way out and bring back the Pope, believing he can quickly return WFAN to No. 1 in afternoon drive. He better. For under these circumstances, where he backstabbed CMB to get a job he said he had no use for, nothing short of a number one finish is miserable failure.”
The back page of the New York Daily News this morning. pic.twitter.com/Hiy66PME2k
— Kirk & Callahan (@KirkAndCallahan) April 25, 2018
Similarly, The Big Lead argues that Mike Francesa’s un-retirement was a failure both by the host and managment.
“If and when this goes down, this can only be seen as a total cave on both sides. WFAN was petrified that CMB lost the 25-54 male demographic by a hair to ESPN NY’s Michael Kay Show in the winter quarter ratings book. Francesa…was clearly unable to find other viable enough suitors for services. This is a terrible job from WFAN management, who had two years to find a good replacement for Francesa and pulled the plug after just a few months, a miniscule amount of time for a new show to find its footing”
Radio stations garner their largest audience, and make the most money, when listeners or potential listeners are commuting to and from their jobs.
As the Inquisitr has previously explained, Mike Francesa inspires both loyalty from fans (small case) in the audience as well as those who hate-listen because of the host’s imperious, all-knowing demeanor. For example, he seldom owned up to game predictions or player evaluations that were way off the mark.
Along those lines, as Marchand separately noted about Mike Francesa’s on-air tendencies, “His egomaniacal habit of denying opinions he uttered a day earlier is like rubbernecking — its ridiculousness is entertaining. With no plan after his ‘retirement’ and with the media landscape having changed, Francesa was lost….Listeners had known about the warts on his personality, but now they are even starker with this public Leno-like power grab. It is hard to see how this ends well; especially if Kay finally beats him.”
Raismann also claimed that WFAN is effectively burying CMB before they had a chance to develop any chemistry, and once their two-year contracts reach their conclusion,”someone/ones will be out the door.”
WFAN has not yet confirmed an official Mike Francesa contract or a start date, but watch this space for further developments.